30th April – Balboa Park

Frustratingly, despite me going further South and with how warm it was yesterday, I wake up this morning to a grey sky and a chill in the air. Biggest issue is that most of my warm clothes are now dirty and I have to scramble together an outfit that will survive. I decide to hope that the weather will improve since it apparently looked miserable in the morning yesterday too (it does, but not nearly as much as I would like).
Today the hostel offers a free shuttle to locations in the down town area at 9:30, so I figure I’ll hop on that to have a look around. Before that, I grab breakfast, which seems to be the staple of American morning meals – bagels, fruit and porridge, and sit back in the back area for the driver.
9:30 comes and goes – driver’s running a little late.
By 9:55 I go to the reception who are surprised to see me. The bus has already gone. I’m very confused as I’d been in the back the whole time, and hadn’t heard any of the calling of names I was supposed to expect. Admittedly I was around the corner from where the guy entered (they just told me ‘wait in the back’) but he’s supposed to walk around to get everyone.
Anyway, with the free way cut off, I decide I’ll go to down town to explore myself. The bus stop for the 923 into down town is just down the street, and I can get a day pass for $5.
Except I can’t, because you also have to pay $2 for the card, which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Apparently the permanent travel card costs $2, and you can put a day pass on that, but for a single days travel, you have to pay the price of a permanent cad on top of the day ticket. And frankly, if it’s cheaper to buy a day pass than use the permanent card to do multiple trips, you’re doing travel cards wrong San Diego!
Honestly, I let myself get a little worked up, and I don’t know why. I think my brain was just looking for ways to get agitated, because by the time I arrived Down town, I can feel a bad headache curling up in my head, as well as raindrops. Figure I should maybe go shopping for some jeans given that the weather’s clearly not going to be as nice as it was the day before, and I’ve been dropped off by Horton Plaza, home to a fairly nice shopping centre. To my disappointment, there’s no discount stores, but there is a Hot Topic.
With sales and discounts.
Which are stackable.
Bingo.
In the end, I don’t find any decent jeans, but do walk out with a new galaxy print dress, some Disney leggings, a Jurassic Park tee, Wonder Woman exercise trousers and slightly more jewellery than I should. None of it is useful for now, but its definitely made me feel better.

P1130117
After wandering around the Gas Quarter for a while, I eventually decide I’ll head up to Balboa Park with my bus pass and check out the area. Not planning to hit the zoo, but some of the museums might be worth a look – especially since the weather is staying quite thoroughly in ‘grey.’
Unfortunately, even with a dose of painkillers, my headache is getting worse, so walking around reading things doesn’t sound like a great idea. Instead, I figure I’ll walk around and see if it clears up.
My plan is to wander up to the zoo then back down again, since the zoo is more or less the furthest point from where I am, which also gives me a chance to check out the park.
Declared a park in 1868, Balboa’s current look was mostly inspired by the World’s Fair held in 1915, in which several of the buildings were originally built.  The park has had a coloured life, starting as a recreational park, only to be regularly commandeered by the military as training grounds for world wars. Over the last 50 years or so, more and more buildings have popped up on the grounds, until there were about 16 different museums scattered throughout the park, all with varying themes, from Fine Art all the way down to Model Trains. If you can’t find at least one to entertain you here, you’re not trying hard enough.

P1130133
I do give the San Diego museum a quick look along the way, since it’s free, as well as the botanical garden, but by the time I make it to the zoo, it’s clear I wont be doing much more today. My head is killing me, and my entire body feels exhausted. I’ll later chalk this up to doing too much typing on my tablet over the last few days, but for now I’m really ready to head back to the hostel and just lie in bed for a few hours.
That said, I do decide that I want to see at least one museum before I leave, or it’s going to feel like a waste of a day. As I wander back, the one that drew my interest the most was the History of Man Museum, which costs about $13 to enter, and just under $20 if I chose to go see the temporary cannibal exhibit across the road. I only have about 60 minutes before they close, so have to give the place a quick runaround as much as I can.
The museum is on two floors, but focuses more on social history rather than society in general. On the right is a section on the history of making beer, while on the left is a section on monsters in different communities.

P1130144
Of course, the biggest attraction on this floor is the plaster casts of Stelae from Quirigua, Guatamala, cast for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915. Each tells a story of the Mayan history of the region, and they’re more than a little impressive to take in.  In fact, thanks to erosion since their casting, they’re often used by historians instead of the originals since the details have not been eroded on the casts as they have on the originals back in Guatamala.
On the second floor there’s a section on mummies and Egypt, although there are almost no mummies on display, thanks to new procedures at the museum that doesn’t allow displaying the dead without permission from the descendants, which is a rule I think most museums should be following all things considered. They also have an area looking at eugenics and genes, regarding how ‘white’ culture and the concept of superior race is completely ridiculous. It’s right next to a collection of plaster cast heads, which were made over 100 years ago, taken from people of different ethnicities in San Diego at the time, although the history of these people is unknown.

P1130146
There are tree additional sections on the top floor, one looking at the local native American people, the Kumeyaay, a section regarding our relationship with animals (pets and livestock), and another which I found the most interesting. It’s regarding an experiment performed several years ago called Post Secret, where a man sent out blank postcards and asked someone to write a secret on them anonymously, and send it in. He got dozens of replies, even after the experiment is over, and they’ve been catalogued both online and in this exhibit. Some of the ones on display are hard to take, but it’s a really fascinating to look at all of these pieces of paper and realise each one is something a person hides…and how many are so similar to one another.
It takes about 40-50 minutes to go through the museum, so by the time I’m heading over to the Cannibal Exhibit I know I have to rush. Although thankfully my head is starting to clear up so I can at least rush through with minimal pain.

P1130155.JPG
The exhibit mostly looks at the myths behind cannibalism and how they began. Naturally, white people started most of them, thanks to a ruling in England regarding colonies – civilians got rights, but cannibals didn’t. So it was generally in the explorers best interests to declare certain tribes cannibals, even when there’s no proof. Even now, its hard to tell if which, if any of certain cultures did practice.
There’s also a section regarding known cannibalism, since just about every culture has some practice of it, including British royalty – there was a King known to drink powdered skulls. Heck, European medicine had plenty of body parts in it for a while. It’s only been in the last few hundred years that the idea suddenly started becoming immoral.
One of the final sections also includes a documentary about the infamous plane crash in which the survivors had to eat the dead in order to survive, but thanks to my time limit, I could only watch a small part of it before heading onwards. Really wish I’d had just another 10 minutes to enjoy the museum entirely, but at least the day was something of a success.

As I’m making my way back to the down town however, I decide to take a quick detour when google maps pops up a possibly place of interest. Specifically, some kind of gourmet dessert cafe – the photos are enough to make me take a look, and I pop into ‘Extraordinary Desserts’ to see what’s on offer.

P1130162.JPG

Sitting down is definitely not an option, too fancy for me, but the cakes at the take out section have my jaw dropping. They all look amazing – I want to take everything home. In the end, I let myself indulge and take a lemon tart, a pastry and a chocolate bundt cake home. Each of them is amazingly decorated – and I have to laugh. Last week in Whistler I was living off noodles, while today I’m eating chocolate cake decorated with edible gold and rose petals. What a life.

Advertisements
Posted in America, Diary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

29th April – Ocean’s Beach

My flight from San Francisco to San Diego is at 9:05, and is with United Airlines. It’s difficult to say which part of that sentence is more ominous. For one thing, it takes about 45 minutes to get to the airport, and because I’m a paranoid girl who always assumes something will get in her way, I decide to go for the 6:15 shuttle rather than the 6:45 (or attempt local transport) just to make sure I have time. As such, I’m up ridiculously early and waiting for a shuttle that shows up 3 minutes early, so the day’s off to a good start. My driver is clearly wanting to capitalise on this too, because I’m all but thrown into the shuttle, and he speeds off at a crazy pace to his next destination. It only takes him 15 minutes to pick up everyone, and then, thanks to lack of traffic and his (questionable) driving skills, we make it to the International Airport by 6:50.
As a domestic passenger, I get out at 6:55, and learn he’s so desperate, because he needs to get to Fisherman’s Wharf for another pickup at 7:10, and needs every minute he can get to make that time. You have to wonder why on earth the shuttle company is scheduling them so close together considering we weren’t even meant to be at the airport before 7.
Regardless, I’m here with time to kill, so use the electronic kiosks to sign in (and get a eerie chill when I see the pop up no United passenger wants to see these days. They’re looking for people willing to take other flights for travel vouchers. Made me regret booking with them, but they were by far the cheapest option for this flight. Thankfully, as far as I could tell, nothing ever came of it.
I wanted to spend my time in the morning trying to finish blog posts, but when I came across an electronics store, I realised I could finally solve one frustrating problem for the next week by grabbing a T-Mobile Tourist SIM card. It’s $30, lasts 3 weeks and provides me with almost unlimited data, free international texts and a 1000 American minutes. To be honest the data is why I want it, and kind of hope I can sell to another traveller heading to America for the last week its active to get back some cash, but we’ll see.
However, I can’t get the Wi-Fi to work, and spend the next hour in the waiting room on the phone with their help desk trying to figure out the problem. Eventually we have to shove the connection in manually, and it takes so long that by the time it’s up and running, and the woman helping me calls back, I’m already on the plane. On the plus side, the problem was solved, so I have a phone and internet in my handbag again.
This would not be the only technical issues today however. As we sit on the plane, the lights start going crazy, and we keep hearing buzzing or warning sounds. Fifteen minutes later, when we should have been taking off, we see a guy in a high viz vest checking out the cabin.
It’s about ten minutes later before we get an explanation. The cabin crew noticed a warning light in their section, and they can’t take off (understandably) before the technician fixes it. As such we’re privy to a 30 minute light show with sound effects, before whatever the problem was is fixed, and we set off 30 minutes late.
San Diego, much like San Francisco, is big and worships the car, and I don’t really want to try my luck with public transport, so go for a shuttle. I make the mistake of walking up to book rather than going online to do so, but throwing money away is basically what I do this holiday. I’m also getting really frustrated at the sheer amount of tipping culture – you’d think I’d be used to it after Canada but America just takes it to an insane degree.
Since I knew I was staying in the hearts of three big cities on this trip (and originally four had I made it to Seattle), I decided to stay on the coast rather than down town in San Diego, and booked to stay at USA Hostels North Beach, one of the highest rated hostels in America. It’s just a few blocks from the beach itself, and isn’t difficult to spot with it’s impressive decor.

P1130113
It’s still a little early to be checking in, but with a quick change out of my boots and into summer shoes, I dump my bag and head out to explore the areas namesake.
The one thing I really love about being on the outskirts instead of down town? The prices. I didn’t have time to eat this morning thanks to my SIM card issues, but not only do all of the places look great, their prices are all a good 5-7 dollars cheaper than San Francisco – I can actually get a meal for less than $10 here. I end up getting Udon at a Japanese restaurant called OB Sushi Sushi, in a bowl big enough to keep me going till the evening.
Given that this is California, the shore is littered with beaches. Just along this section is Mission Beach, a behemoth next door to North Beach. Here surfing and swimming reign supreme, although the weather isn’t quite warm enough to go in the water without a wetsuit. Instead, I walk along the very old, and very long fishing pier, and people watch the few devoted surfers trying to catch waves.
It’s strange considering I’ve been in North America for over a year, but it’s not until this moment that my brain truly registered just how ‘big’ cities in this country are. From the pier I can see a significant chunk of shoreline, and pretty far into the horizon, and all I can see is buildings. In San Fran the hills and skyscrapers made it hard to take in the size, but with the flatness of this part of California, all you can see is city. It’s’ insane – back home if I saw buildings on one end of the shore and buildings on another, they’d be two completely different cities with half a dozen towns in between, but here it’s just one giant clump of urbanisation. It’s crazy to take in.
North Beach isn’t particularly long, so I don’t talk much time wandering it before heading into town and going to check out the area. The weather and landscape really remind me of Perth, it’s got that bright sun/really dry dirt and multiple outdoor sports venue aspect that I know so well going on, but the highlight of my walk was the dog park in the shadow of a motorway connecting this chunk of San Diego with the area home to Sea World. There are so many gorgeous dogs I end up sitting down and just watching them play around before heading back to North Beach.

USA Hostels hosts a lot of activities, and tonight is a barbecue for $5, so make a point to hang around the common area for 6:30, so I can wrangle a burger. Tomorrow they have a shuttle heading for down town which I intend to use, and then head to La Jolla on Tuesday before I book my bus to Los Angeles.

Posted in America, Diary, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

28th April – San Francisco

Yesterday I was at Alcatraz. However, I was painfully reminded why I stopped using the WordPress app to write posts when 3 hours of work suddenly vanished in the blink of an eye. It’ll be posted as soon as I can find the drive to write the same very long day over twice.
Thankfully, my experience today is a good entry to vent in. Thanks to a series of misfortunate events, I had a bad afternoon, which thankfully culminated in a good evening, but was still an unpleasant experience to have.

Continue reading

Posted in America, Diary | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

26th April – Onward to San Francisco

Once the party champions are crowned, I have to shift into high gear. I have just over an hour before my bus leaves, and I still have a few last minute decisions to make. First things first – phone charges while I shower and get out of the very sweaty clothes I’ve been running around in all day. I’m very sorry my new roommate is going to have to bear with a pair of very smelly socks in the laundry basket, but not much else I can do. Flat’s been cleaned, I check the mail, toss out the last of my milk, and I decide against some last minute additions and finally make a judgement call on a jacket – not taking one on the grounds that they’re all winter/ski jackets and if I do need one, it’s probably going to be better long term if I buy it there.

Finally, at 8:30 I’m out the door, giving one roommate a final farewell (at least 2 of them will be gone into new accommodation and quote possibly replaced by the time I’m back), and stumble my way down village run, belatedly remembering that I wanted to polish my boots before I left, but it’s too late now. Hopefully they’ll survive till I get back.

As it happens, the snow and slush are so low that I make good time, and wind up in Rexall buying a new pair of sunglasses (somehow managed to wreck the pair I bought in March already) and grabbing some travel sized toiletries. I was contemplating just buying tiny containers, but I’m almost out of shampoo anyway, and I like knowing I’m covered. I’m taking enough risk not bringing a towel all things considered.

The last bus out of Whistler is the Greyhound at 9pm. It’s clear why there aren’t more buses around this time – only two passengers get on here, and another two in Creekside. Plainly people don’t like travelling to Vancouver at night – but definitely beneficial for me, as I get to spread out over two seats. Greyhound might not havea great rep, but when it’s quiet it’s by far my favourite choice for trying to get some sleep. As it happens, I have a very comfortable 2 hours getting to my destination, although I’m not expecting to keep that up.

When I get to Vancouver, my knowledge of the city fails me when I blank on exactly what station I need to go to. I forgot that I didn’t come to Van via plane, and as such this is a new route for me. I mull over the problem for a few minutes, before deciding, screw-it-I-have-the-time and just riding Expo to Waterfront and hopping onto the right line from there.

Thanks to this, it takes about an hour for me to arrive at Vancouver’s airport, but I’m pleasantly surprised to find that unlike Toronto, the place isn’t teeming with other early arrivals. Within five minutes, I’ve even found four seats together – the holy grail of the sleeping-in-transit-traveller. Space to stretch out without resorting to the floor.

Unfortunately, they are still airport seats, which were designed for anything but comfort, so sleep eludes me. The best I can achieve is a sort of deep dozing, although my paranoia at sleeping while my bags sit next to me probably didn’t help. It also starts getting cold, and my choice not to bring a jacket suddenly seems very stupid.

In the end, I have to get up and walk twice, maybe getting 2 hours of semi-sleep in between. The rest of the time I’m stretching my legs, eating food I don’t really want and playing Pokemon Go, before heading back to my check in office for 3am so I can start checking in for my 6am flight.

Now, I’ve done enough flying by this point to understand the frustation at the time expectations involved in flying. Two hours for domestic and three for International – even though you know full well you’re just going to be wandering around the airport for an hour and a half, you still give yourself the time just in case. I finally figured out why – American airline companies.

Alaska Air’s check in desk didn’t even open until 3:30! When it did, I was one of the first to get checked in, which took an age due to slow computers that were causing problems, only to be sent to another line – there were several planes flying internationally at six, but baggage check didn’t open till 4. When we finally got through that minefield? Its time for 20 questions at an electronic booth before, you guessed it, another line. American Border Control/Customs wasn’t open until 4:30. And they were having just as many issues as the airline had with the computers – they weren’t reading something properly and were being super slow. Despite – again – being one of the first in line, I didn’t manage to escape and find my gate until 5:10, with less than 20 minutes before my flight boarded. I couldn’t believe the impracticality of it.

On the plus side, my flight not only left on time, but ended up landing early – we were in the air for less than 30 minutes before touching down in Seattle, leaving me with over 3 hours to prepare for my connection.

Good thing too, because I needed it. Seattle Airport is CHAOS. I have to do an entire loop of the terminal before figuring out I had to go down a set of hidden escalators (lots of construction going on), get on a train, and follow the signs for baggage claim. Once there, I just had to keep going right, and eventually made my way to the next departure gate.

(And yes, I’m aware I probably could have just stayed in the departure area given that I’d checked in electronically, but I was so turned around I figured I’d just go with what I definitely knew would work).

For the Seattle to San Francisco leg, I’m flying with Delta Airlines at 9:50, and they allow you to use an electronic boarding card (unlike Alaska who insisted on paper copies), so I could walk through with my passport and phone. I’m even doing this trip with just my large Jansport backpack, so it’s all carry on – no delays at bag drop or pick up.

The biggest problem however, is my sleep deprivation. This flight was meant to happen after 3 days in Seattle and with a good nights sleep – not four hours of semi-sleep after being awake since 8am the previous day. I can barely keep my eyes open while I wait for the flight.

Once we get on board, we get some more bad news. San Fran has requested more time between flights due to a backlog, and our flight gets pushed back 10 minutes. Which turns to 40, and means we’re all climbing the walls even before the 2 hour flight starts. Granted, the pilot does his best to cut the time down, and we only land 15 minutes later than planned, but it was still a very long trip with my head in it’s current state.

I’m staying at a place called ‘The Green Tortoise Hostel’ which isn’t far from the bay, but is far from the airport. They have an arrangement with the Airport Express SF shared van which gets you door to door service for $16. My phone obviously isn’t working since I crossed the border and refuse to pay Fido’s daylight robbery roaming charges, so I have to go down to the baggage claim and find the shuttle bus desk, which has phones with direct dials to the right buses. As luck would have it, there’s a bus coming in a matter of minutes, and I find myself wedged into the back of a van as we set off towards my first stop on the East Coast hop.

The most obvious thing you notice on your way to San Fran, is that it’s not all on the giant hills everyone sees in the media. On the outskirts, most of the ground is flat, oblivious to the rep or the freeway we’re zooming down. In fact, it’s nearly half an hour before the San Fran I recognised as San Fran started to take shape, and we all got an impromptu tour of the streets on Central San Francisco.

The streets feel very tight, thanks to the height of the buildings and the angle of the walls. Part of me can’t believe they built on the hills rather than levelling the place, because it’s a very strange thing to see. The streets themselves also feel wrong to me, because the ratio of restaurants/takeaway to shops and generally things I recognise seem way off.

The Green Tortoise is on Broadway Street, not too far from Chinatown and the harbour. San Francisco is so expensive, that most hostels are in slightly grungy parts of town, and this one has a few ‘adult’ bars in view from the windows, but otherwise looks pretty good. The hostel itself feels old fashioned, but I have a feeling that it was a conscious choice so isn’t a con. The biggest issue for me is getting the key to work – the lock on the door is an absolute nightmare – everyone in the room needs a few minutes to figure out how to get back in.

I only have 2 1/2 days in San Francisco, so I need to get busy, but between not wanting to look at my computer for head issues and the sheer anguish of travel, I’m both unprepared and tired. I immediately learn that Alcatraz is often booked solid, so going tomorrow might not be as possible as I’d hoped.

There’s probably pleny I could be doing in the city, especially giving my much-shorter-than-I-realised itinerary, but the downside of my migration from Canada means I’m both tired and exhausted. Rather than plan anything (especially since I’ve just missed most walking tours by 5 minutes), I pick a direction and just go wandering.

The first thing I notice is just how cramped the city feels. Between the steep hills and the height of the buildings, the city feels smaller than it is, burying you in its presence. It’s also very easy to lose your way given that it uses the same grid system North America seems to love for its cities.

I was hoping to find Union Square, the hub of San Francisco, but my attempts were best described as laughable. Mostly through luck, I stumble across the Embarcadero, which is also hosting a small market today. One gentleman was selling these amazing pendants made from sawing out American quarters, but I had to resist purchasing.

Thankfully, I had an easy direction to wander in – the Farmers Market inside the Port building. I was so hungry by this point, and hadn’t been able to find anywhere that wasn’t really fancy or Subway. This wasn’t exactly a cheaper option, the stands were all shop/take-out style, but at least I didn’t feel out of place walking in.

I ended up grabbing fish and chips from a fish stand, mostly because I haven’t had good battered fish since arriving in Whistler. It’s just not something that they do in Canada – and boy was this worth the $15. Batter was light, and fish literally fell apart in my hands. Fries were so so, I spend a little extra to get garlic fries, which were nice, but honestly too much after half a portion.

Now fed, I figured I’d wander back via the pier, and check out Alcatraz Landing to see if I could grab tickets. It’s less than 10 minutes away, and the pier is full of attractions and sights to keep you occupied.

Unfortunately, I got some bad new when I made it to Alcatraz Landing – there’s a sign up saying the next tours aren’t available until Sunday. I do however learn, that they sell 50-100 extra tickets for the first boat on the day, but people start lining up at 5am (ticket office opens at 7:30) to get tickets.

Fisherman’s Wharf is just a small distance away, but honestly by this point my body is crashing hard, so I decide to had back to the hostel and make plans for the next couple of days. There is a group Indian meal happening tonight, but I’m so full from lunch I decide to skip it, and instead have an early night to guarantee I’ll make it to Alcatraz tomorrow.

Posted in America, Diary | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

25th April – Final Staff Party

So, my original plan was to leave for Seattle on the 23rd and enjoy a few days in the nearby US town before heading down the East Coast. However, not long after I booked everything in, I got the announcement that the staff party would be on the 25th. Since it was an all day event, and sounded a hoot, I really didn’t want to miss it. I had to wrack my brains for a while to figure out how I’d swing it since I had a flight booked in the morning of the 26th for San Francisco. For a while I thought I’d have to eat the flight and fly from Vancouver, only to realise Van-Sea is a very popular route, and managed to get a connecting flight with Alaska Airlines for half what it would have been for a Van-SanFran flight. It did mean leaving Whistler at 9pm and sleeping at the airport, but needs must.

Rendezvous really like to go all out for their end of Winter season staff party. It’s not just one event, but a whole day of team exercises, starting with a ski session on the mountain. There’s no pressure to attend all of them, but just to come to whatever events interest you. After my successful trip up on Monday, I decide I’m going to attend all 3, and hang out at the Excalibur Gondola to meet up with everyone at 10am to head up Excalibur and Jersey Cream.

There’s two events happening on the mountain in the morning. The first would be a race down Buzz Cut – the fastest 10 would get points for their team, and the next half was a scavenger hunt. There were five cryptic clues alluding to different runs, and we had to get a photo of at least one member of our team in front of the ski run sign. Now I’m not a fast skier at the best of times, but one look at Buzz Cut and I happily step down from attempting. It’s very icy, and the last third is invisible thanks to a steep hill, so like quite a few people, we wanted to take out time. Unlike the very enthusiastic snowboarders, who sped down this thing in a straight line as if the devil himself was chasing them. Our team already had an immediate advantage thanks to having Damon in our team, who has proven multiple times to have no concept of fear. Or braking. Although he was hardly the only one to go crashing into the ground in a spectacular fashion by the bottom.

I took my lazy time getting down the mountain, which halfway down was most definitely the right choice considering how shaky my skis are. My contribution to the team would be the hunt part – and figuring out the five clues:

1. Elvis’s favourite

2. Giant Black Hole

3. Rolling Papers

4. Drowning in Whiskey

5. Army Haircut

Number five was clearly Buzz Cut, but we’d figured that out pretty early and grabbed a photo before the race started with the whole team.

Number one was Rock and Roll, and we decided number four was probably Straight Shot (turns out is was In the Spirit). Three was Zig Zag, and after some Googling, number 2 was clearly Quasar. Since Quasar was up in the Glacier, Damon and Olly were sent off to grab it, while Dave, Jos and Billy headed up to Crystal for one and four. Since the last time I went up that way, I gave myself a concussion, I grabbed the photo of Zig Zag with help from Dave, and decided to head down towards the meeting area.

Any lingering doubts I had about breaking off immediately die when I hit the final hill of Zig Zag. On Monday this run was chaos, but doable. By today, everything is either slush or compacted, and despite being the snow equivilant of silk most of the way, the final hill is compacted, icy, and very bumpy. As an added bonus, it starts just as the tree shade comes into play, so the second I hit it, my goggles made me blind. By the time I recovered, I’d lost a lost of speed, and couldn’t get to the safer area, so fell in a starfish when I lost the ability to control them. A passing skier helped me get to my feet, and I had to skid my way down to the slush snow. There’s no way crystal wouldn’t have just been more of this – definitely dodged a bullet.

The mess on Zig Zag ends up holding me up so much that I don’t get down the mountain until 12:08, which is later than planned. We’re all having lunch at Merlins’s Grill in Upper Village at 12:30, so have just enough time to get changed and walk down to meet the non-skiers. As it happens, I’m not the only one having trouble getting down, because most of the skiers don’t show up until 1.

Lunch is sandwiches or wraps made from what I think was mostly leftovers from Rendezvous and Christines. Beef, turkey, lettuce, corn salsa, feta, American cheese, sauces and some veg, as well as chip packets and potato salad. Everyone ended up being hungry enough to finish up most of what was out before the last skiers arrived, and then we got the list of challenges for the day.

We had from 1:30 to 5:30, and rather than a scavenger hunt, it was a series of tasks of varying difficulty that we had to perform, and take photos as evidence.

1. At least one member of your team naked

2. Member of your team dressed like a mannequin and standing next to it

3. Member of team riding the biggest vehicle you can find

4. Spell out an offensive word using your teammates bodies

5. A photo of a team member wearing a name badge from a non-WB business that is also their name.

6. Make a music video by remixing a song with lyrics that relate to your time at Rendezvous.

You get a point for each challenge, and two additional points for originality and creativity. Thankfully, we have a lot of enthusiastic members, and next thing I know, everyone in the team is getting naked behind a snowbank. I’m definitely not getting involved, so I happily volunteered to take the photo to get out of it. A few skies suffered for the sake of taste, but we had number one in the bag.

Next up was the offensive word. Everyone wanted to go big, so we spent about ten minutes trying to figure out the longest word that could be spelled with our numbers, and settled on ‘Asshole.’ Took more than a little organising to get everyone in position, and I’m not sure it was that recognisable, but everyone liked it so we moved on.

Now, I have a name badge from IGA, but in order to get it, I’d need to go up to Staff to get my key, and then go all the way to IGA, so we choose that as a last resort. We have a few common names in the group, so finding name tags while we hunt for mannequins shouldn’t be difficult. As it happens, we find a Dave in Roots, so we get a shot, and then head to Gap…once everyone has a liquor store break since two members had a lucky escape with a no-open-alcohol-can enforcement officers and had their booze confiscated.

Two of our teammates are former Gap employees, so they were able to talk the staff into letting us pose with the mannequins so long as we cleaned up afterwards. The four male team members that were still with us immediately started looking for the dresses and shirts on display, and I grabbed the sportswear on the side since it was the most bland outfit (and we were out of boys to crossdress). Apparently some of the guys quite like the fit of some of the jeans, which was hilariously ironic. Star of the show though was Troy, who looked fantastic in his crop top/denim jacket work out combo in the background, even if the other three were still pretty spectacular.

We’re still looking for a large vehicle (really wanted a fire truck but no luck) but figure we can do a bus if nothing else shows up. However, that slips to the back of our mind, because Dave suddenly notices he got a text about ten minutes ago about an additional challenge, and we have to get to Regiliati park – and just got a five minute warning.

We try our best, but between the delay of not noticing, and the hesitancy to move thanks to a teammate vanishing, we make it there a minute late. Not that would have helped, because we had the minutes to get there AND do the challenge, which was basically doing five steps along a bungee cord style tightrope. We still tried, but no luck, and moved on as the next team showed up.

Lack of tightrope walking points aside, we were doing pretty well, and decided we’d do the music video on Blackcomb, after taking photos in the free shuttle bus that takes us to Blackcomb suites as our largest vehicle. I spent the trip frantically trying to scribble down the lyrics we’d been hashing out all day, and figured we’d gotten something…singable.

We’d chosen Backstreet Boy’s ‘I Want it That Way’ for whatever reason, and we’d agreed to do two verses and a chorus. Ideally we’d do it in one take, but by this point certain people were hilariously drunk, and Jos figured it would only take 15 minutes to edit, so we decided to do it in multiple clips. The lyrics, for those curious, were:

The zoo, is open

The hoards, are coming

We’re so, hungover

At least we’re not Roundhouse

Would you, like some guac?

Or some edamame?

It’s just, another $2.50

If you want gravy!

SHRED WITH ME!

Uploading Wizard

SHRED WITH ME!

Uploading Solar

SHRED WITH ME!

Popping Molly in the changing room

At least we’re not Roundhouse.

We figured we’d do each verse in one take, but some of the guys were so far beyond remembering one line, let alone four, that rather than the quick 10 minutes it should have taken, we were out for 40 minutes and heading back to Glacier with 30 minutes left to edit. Should have been doable, except Jos’s computer decided to act all familial to mine and crashed. Repeatedly. We ended up having to get another team member’s german Macbook up to try and format, but he didn’t want to edit and Jos had given up, so I had a crack at it. Nothing facing, literally just splicing 3 clips together, but at least it was a finished video – and only 20 minutes late too!

We weren’t the only team late though, and only one of two who had made the video, so we were pretty happy with our chances. The meal was hotdogs with more leftover dressings, and at 7, we finally got round to seeing everyone’s work.

Credit where credit was due, the naked photos were very daring. Two statues having a very good time and one secret run in a gondola. We still had the best mannequin photos though. Disaster did strike when we realised the sound hadn’t processed properly on our video, but three of us just hollered the lyrics to compensate, and it tipped us over to win!

The prize however, was a Wii U – not something we could share. So in order to select who would win it, we all had to tie 3 balloons to our feet and trying and stamp the other’s out. Whoever still had a balloon at the end will win. Gave it a valiant effot, but think Candace managed to strike my last balloon and take me out after a few minutes. Eventually, it was Jos who stood victorious, Wii in hand.

All things considered, it was a great way to end the season. Said my goodbyes as I had to rush off to get ready for my travel adventures again, but no regrets about skipping Seattle to make this.

Posted in Canada, Diary, Uncategorized, Whistler | Tagged | Leave a comment

8th March – Down for the Count

(Needless to say, all of the future posts up until June were written in May once I’d recovered enough to be capable of staring at a computer screen for more than 5 minutes at a time.  This has not been a fun recovery).

If I hadn’t already been suspicious yesterday, the fact that I woke up with a headache that quickly shot up to a four on the pain scale by the time I’d gotten dressed would have tipped me off. Something is definitely wrong with my cranium and I need to figure out what.

I’m heading straight to a concussion specialist in town rather than the doctors since I’m pretty sure that’s where they’d just send me anyway – Peak Physio first thing today. As it’s concussion based, I get a private room with dark lights, and when the woman comes in to assess me, we get my symptoms sorted out.

First things first, definitely a concussion. My eyes can’t follow movement or keep focus of items moving to close or two fast as well as they should be, and although my reading capabilities at a distance are still fine, doing a few lines of the eye test made me nauseous enough to throw up. I also can’t handle bright lights at all.

Unfortunately, nothing is going to fix this but time and rest. I’m not to go into work for a week – I ask if I can get a reassess after 5 days since I’m not sure I can afford a whole week, which she gives me – I need to avoid all types of screens, wear sunglasses when I’m around bright light (even inside my flat if necessary), and basically do nothing more strenuous than light housework. Sleep and low impact vision is what I need.

…Frankly I have no idea what I’m going to do with myself for a week if I can’t look at any electronic, read, write, cook or go out for more than 15 minutes at a time, but I can’t even think about going back to work until my headache is gone, or at the least down to just an intermittent one.

Thankfully, after cleaning just about everything I’m allowed to in the flat, I remember podfic was a thing, and spent most of the next few days becoming very intimate with the sound of Opalsong’s voice on Ao3. I’m also becoming very familiar with the tennis ball technique, in which you tape two tennis balls together. lie on the ground, position them at the base of your neck and head and do neck crunches to ease the tension in the back of your head. Its about the only thing keep me sane right now.

Posted in Canada, Diary | Tagged , | Leave a comment

7th March – Three, Two, One, IMPACT

Today, I learned that determination and confidence can come back and bite you if you decide to push past your limits. Which is frustrating, because I was doing really well with my skiing up until this point.

I have been trying to get to Crystal Hut for it’s infamous waffles for, well, pretty much all winter. But between bad weather, me chickening out and just trying to get in the miles on my skis, it hadn’t happened. Today however, I decided enough was enough. I hadn’t had any major incidents in some time, there was snow on the ground, let’s go have some waffles.

My first warning probably should have been how bad the snow was when I got to Glacier Creek. There hadn’t been a lot of new snow and the weather had been cold, which meant little powder and a lot of ice, especially if you went further up. Nothing made that more clear than when I skied down the Crystal run only to find the hills to be little more than ice. However, I got down them with no problem, so continued on my quest, hopped on the chairlift, and finally made it to the little hut on the summit just across from Rendezvous. Crystal Hut.

No staff discount here, so I paid close to $20 for waffles with bacon and a hot drink, but I can see why people insist they’re worth the hike. The bacon was so so, but the waffle was really soft and sweet, and not overwhelmed by the toppings. Not sure I’d do the pilgrimage again, but I was really happy to finally get up here and experience it.

Unfortunately, that was the highlight of my day. What happened next would decide my fate for the next two months, and render my South American trip plans impossible. Which is even more frustrating when you realise how much of a non-event it felt like at the time.

In order to get down from Crystal Hut, you have to take either the green ‘Easy’ route, or one of the blue runs. Given the bad snow, part of me thought going down the green might make the most sense, but at the same time with the ice the way it was, I knew it made certain greens even harder, and thought that a blue made more sense, because I had a general feel for them now. Mistake number 1.

Mistake number 2 – I decide to head down Rock n Roll, and at the start I’m doing fine. Except I see a bunch of people slipping off and heading towards a different blue run called White Light. Figuring that following the crowd might be in my best interest, I follow.

Mistake number 3 is not turning around and heading back to Rock n Roll when I get my first look at white Light. It’s the steepest slope I’ve ever seen, and there’s barely any new snow. There’s even someone collapsed around the middle, clearly in trouble. My gut instinctively says I should not be doing this run.

And my final mistake was telling my gut to shut up and not be a baby. I’ve done steep runs before. I’ve even done icy runs before. How awesome will it feel when I get to the bottom and realise I’ve conquered yet another run that terrifies me? There’s not been a blue run I couldn’t do yet, so lets get going.

I don’t even get a quarter of the way down before disaster hits. This hill is pure ice, and I’m still not entirely sure what happened – I ‘think’ I either wasn’t going fast enough, my knee locks up again, or my right ski caught on something, maybe a mix of both. All I know is my right ski suddenly wont turn when I REALLY need it to, my skies collide with each other, and I go crashing chest first into the ground at speed on the compacted ice and snow.

One ski almost immediately snaps off and stops where I fell. I however do not – and find myself suddenly shooting down this slope at speed. I try to use my other ski to dig in, but there’s absolutely nothing to dig in to, and it also snaps off, flying down the hill ahead of me, while my poles go crashing into the other poor soul stuck on the hill.

About midway, and a few feet from the other fallen skier and his wife, I manage to flip around, and one of my heels finally find an inch or so of snow to stop my descent. Unfortunately, when the couple try to help give me my poles back, I have to shift my feet to get closer, and go shooting down another ten feet.

I honestly don’t know what to do – my skies are literally on different ends of the slope, and although my poles get tossed to me, I’m not sure how I’m getting down. Thankfully, a pair of skiers sees my dilemma, and once ascertained that I can still move and seem uninjured, retrieve my skies and let me use them as a support in order to stand up and get them back on.

That said there’s no way I was skiing down the rest of that hill – it was clearly beyond me and I was shaking. Instead, I shuffle-skied my way to the side, and basically allowed my skis to ‘skid’ down to the bottom, at which point I spotted a through way back to Rock n Roll, and returned to it. However, I still skid down any steep parts our of fear…and because I could feel a twinge in my left calf which suggested I might have strained something.

With that fear in mind, I decided skiing was decidedly over for today, and tentatively made my way back to the Excalibur Gondola, returning home and deciding I’d spend the day cleaning the flat. Hopefully tomorrow my leg would feel fine.

As it turns out, my leg should have been the least of my worries. Over the next few hours, I start to develop of headache. It starts off as little more than a twinge which I shrug off as a hydration issue and try drinking more, only for it to develop into something just shy of a migraine. At which point a sinking feeling starts to pool.

I keep telling myself ‘it’s not a concussion. You never hit your head. A concussion only happens if you hit your head.’

Unfortunately, the headache is soon accompanied by vomiting, and that sinking feeling gets worse.

Maybe it’s just a migraine that picked a bad time. Just because I’ve got two major symptoms of a concussion doesn’t mean I have one. Whoever heard of having a concussion without head trauma?

However, my gut isn’t happy at having been ignored all day, so finally, I was into Peak Physiotherapy, who have a concussion specialist (the medical centre was REALLY busy so they were my best option) and asked them to nullify my fears. They could feel free to laugh at me for the question, but you couldn’t get a concussion without hitting your head, right?

Apparently, YOU CAN.

It’s not common, but the head is basically a box. If your chest hits the ground hard enough and your neck jerks badly enough, your brain will go smashing into your skull. The head doing the hitting is not actually required. I immediately make an appointment for the next morning to get confirmation, and hope it’s something I can shake off easily.

(Spoiler alert, it’s NOT).

Posted in Canada, Diary, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment